Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’ve tasked myself with leading you on a meandering tour of the virtual garden of delights and curiosities and thoughts that make up my world – all through the lens of unusual, obscure, or simply charming-to-me words.
G is for…
Galenical: a medicine prepared by extracting one of more active constituents of a plant; herb or other vegetable drug, distinguished from a mineral or chemical drug; a tincture, or decoction, as distinguished from a preparation that has been refined
The word is derived from Galen was a 2nd century Greek physician and philosopher whose work greatly influenced Western medical theory from the Middle Ages through the 17th century.
While I’m certainly not a trained herbalist, I do work with herbs, and am endlessly fascinated by them. As is my way, I often commit to studying a plant for a lengthy period of time, usually over the course of a year or more, during which time I keep a journal dedicated to the subject. Just like with all good relationships, I believe we need to devote time and energy to listening, and developing and then deepening our understanding. Currently I’m working with Damiana, which I’ve come to love.
But today’s word, also reminds me that I want to mention a charming little treasure – Maia Toll’s book The Illuminated Herbiary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Bewitching Botanicals.
By Maia’s own definition an herbiary is “ a collection of short writings about botanicals: medicinal, decorative, and whimsical. Although it alludes to healing properties, it was never meant to be prescriptive. Many observations are quite accurate, but they should not be seen as superior to creative or fanciful descriptions and symbolic flights of fancy. A great deal of its charm comes from the depth and creativity of its illustrations, allowing us to see what otherwise would remain hidden.”
I think that’s an absolutely perfect description of what she’s attempted and accomplished with this book. I find it simply delightful, and if the description appeals to you, you might want to add it to your to-read list. It’s lovely and conversational, with wonderful illustrations, and short little glimpses into 36 botanicals. Little rituals and suggestions for reflections are offered for each as well. Also included with the book is a set of 36 oracle cards, one for each of the botanicals covered.
In keeping with my practice of awarding a rating based on floriography, the language of flowers, giving a hint at the plot as well as my appraisal, I would offer a nosegay of White Mulberry (wisdom); Dandelion (oracle) and Forget-Me-Not (true love).
To finish up, let me share a bit of wisdom from Plato that seems especially apt in these times: “Just as bees make honey from thyme, the strongest and driest of herbs, so do the wise profit from the most difficult of experiences.”
So tell me – what’s your favorite herb? Have a plant book to recommend? Keep journals as you study things? Do tell – you know I love to hear.